Knights vs Titans at McDonald Jones Stadium - 3pm Saturday:
On the face of it, this should be a high-scoring thriller with the two worst defensive teams in the competition squaring off against one another. The Knights have conceded 447 points at an average of a touch over 26 points a game while the Titans have conceded 427 at just over 25. No other team in the competition has conceded more than 400 points this season.
The Knights sit 11th on 16 points, the Titans 12th on 14 so very little separates the two sides overall and while the top eight realistically looks out of reach for both, the loser of this one can surely kiss their flickering finals hopes goodbye.
The Knights hold a 10-9 win/loss record overall against the Gold Coast but the Titans have won four of their last five encounters including a 33-26 victory on the Gold Coast earlier this season in a game the Knights absolutely butchered. The Titans are staring at a possible third straight defeat while the Knights broke a three match losing run with last weekend's defeat of the Parramatta Eels.
While the forward battle generally decides these games, the head-to-head clash between the halves Mitchell Pearce and Ash Taylor will be a ripper. Pearce was enormous in his return from injury against the Eels with his kicking game and direction what the side has desperately needed in his absence. But if Taylor is allowed to run his own race and dominate, the visitors will be hard to hold out. There is still no Kalyn Ponga for the Knights which blunts the home side's scoring capacity and centre Sione Mata'utia will sit this one out with a fractured cheekbone while Queensland Origin forward Jai Arrow, who will be one of the game's premier forwards over the next few seasons, is a big in for the Titans after missing last week's loss to the Roosters.
Knights coach Nathan Brown met with his Titans counterpart Garth Brennan a couple of years ago to see if he was interested in a development job with the club back in Newcastle. Brennan opted to stay coaching in the lower grades at the Panthers before landing the Titans gig when Neil Henry was sacked late last season.
1 Nick Meaney, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Cory Denniss, 4 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 5 Nathan Ross, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Josh King, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Aidan Guerra, 12 Mitch Barnett, 13 Herman Ese'ese.
Interchange: 14 Jamie Buhrer (c), 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 17 Jacob Lillyman
Reserves: 18 Brent Naden, 19 Sam Stone, 20 Jack Cogger, 21 JJ Felise
1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Konrad Hurrell, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 AJ Brimson, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Ryan James (c), 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Keegan Hipgrave, 13 Jai Arrow.
Interchange: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Moeaki Fotuaika,16 Jack Stockwell, 17 Will Matthews
Reserves: 18 Leilani Latu, 19 Brendan Elliot, 20 Jai Whitbread, 21 Morgan Boyle